Monday, January 31, 2011

Mighty Impressive

There he is. Mighty Impressive. Certainly the most beautiful male llama we've ever owned. He was large and in charge. For years he was simply unable to "put up" with any other males being in HIS paddock, HIS territory. He would fight -- literally to the death -- given the opportunity.
But he loved people. He was easily haltered and a dream on lead. He would strut around like a king -- which on our farm, he was.
"Who's THAT?" visitors to the farm would ask.
"That's Mighty Impressive," I'd reply. "I wonder who looked at a baby llama and said, 'Gosh, he's mighty impressive.'"
Well, someone did. And they were right.
Mighty Impressive was the Grand Champion of the Illinois State Fair in his class in the year 2000.
Two years ago he suffered with heat stress in the summer. It affected him permanently by "mellowing" his attitude. In fact, two months ago he decided he was finally ready to live in a herd situation. He went over a fence while the other boys were grazing in the front yard -- and he didn't try to fight! He was ready to be part of the herd.
I should have known that something was wrong. On Sunday he was kushed next to a big round bale and couldn't get up. Thanks to the kindness and muscle of Steve and Ben, we were able to roll him into a sling and move him inside to a small pen. He was still eating vigorously and drank well, too. But he couldn't or wouldn't get up.
On Monday morning when I went to the barn, he had passed during the night. In a world with thousands of llamas, he was one of a kind. He was a treasure and we loved owning him. And I think he loved us in return.
Photos: Ben and Mighty; Mighty being Mighty; Mighty in the snow; Jack and I with Mighty for our 2006 Christmas card.

Montana llamas -- and helpers

It was cold, cold. In the 20s and then the wind kicked up a bit, too. But Sunday was the day that the 22 Montana rescue llamas were vet checked by the veterinary team from the University of IL vet college.
Nanci came a day early -- and at the crack of dawn, we set up the panels in a workable fashion -- to move animals in and out of the chute -- safely and efficiently.
Dr. Sherrie Clark, Nanci, Shannon, Charlotte, Kate, Nissa, Alicia (vet students) took turns giving shots, drawing blood, listening to hearts and lungs and rumen sounds and body scoring these animals. They also ultrasounded some of the animals to rule in or out possible pregnancies.
We would eventually discover that they are all fairly healthy -- except for the clear near-starvation circumstance that brought them to my farm in the first place.
All 22 of these animals have people waiting to make them a "part of the family." Some will head north to PA. Some will go west to MO. Some will stay in IL. All will be cherished in their new homes, never again to face the cold without shelter and food.
A small miracle has happened. That over 600 llamas were plucked from the edge of disaster and have moved to places of comfort is amazing.
I'm honored to be a part of it.
The photos are: Veterinary team working the ultrasound machine; Julie and Dusk, my alpaca gal; Shannon and Eclipse, the llama cria; Amanda and her llama, Punxsutawney.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Too difficult?

Things are often too difficult, aren't they?

It's not so simple running a farm with over 100 animals. It's hard work from sun-up to sundown.
Feeding , which at this time of the year means dragging bales through the snow.
Breaking up ice on the water or replacing the floating heaters, so fresh, potable water is available.
Noticing when my "old llama girl" is shivering and needs a coat.
Seeing the eager faces when I come into the barn to feed hay and grain -- only to leave with a wad of spit in my hair.
But it's so worth it.
It makes me have a reason for being. It makes me get up in the morning and smile at the day. It makes me happy.
That's why the thought of having to sell our property and "downsize" is so frightening. Much of my identity is wrapped up with these animals, and their care.
My grandchildren love the farm. They like climbing the trees, walking the llamas and alpacas, jumping on hay bales, riding in the golf carts -- the whole package.
Ben comes home on the weekend and he, too, loves the farm. Specifically he'll say, "I LOVE this house."
Let's hope we're able to sell enough animals this year to sustain this adventure. Let's hope that people sign up for the "3 Sisters Workshops" series we're launching. Let's hope people buy yarn and handmade hats from me by the dozens. Let's hope people needing 401k rollovers call my husband at his office and get great service, a dedicated financial planner -- and we get the benefit of new business.
The economy is awful and it has hit us very, very hard.
I'm not yet ready to give up on this dream.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

What a difference a week makes

The Montana llamas arrived 8 days ago. They had been living "in the wild" at the Montana Large Animal Sanctuary -- which is now closed. Eight hundred llamas living on 700 acres and foraging for a living. Of course some hay was available, but apparently not enough for that many llamas.
Sara Beth was the first to receive a name -- of the 22 living llamas that arrived here. She was named for the Rascal Flatts song of the same name. Don't know it?

SaraBeth is scared to death
To hear what the doctor will say
She hasn't been well
Since the day that she fell
And the bruise it just won't go away

So she sits and she waits with her mother and dad
And flips through an old magazine
'Til the nurse with a smile stands at the door
And says "Will you please come with me?"

SaraBeth is scared to death Cause the doctor just told her the news
Between the red cells and white Something's not right
But we're gonna take care of you
Six chances in ten it won't come back again
But with the therapy we're gonna try
It's just been approved it's the strongest there is
But I think we caught it in time

SaraBeth closes her eyes
And she dreams she's dancin' around and around
Without any cares
And her very first love Is holding her close
And the soft wind is blowing her hair

SaraBeth is scared to death as she sits holding her mom cause
It would be a mistake For someone to take
A girl with no hair to the prom
For just this morning right there on her pillow
Was the cruelest of any surprise
Yet She cried when she gathered it all in her hands
The proof that she couldn't deny

SaraBeth closes her eyes
And she dreams she's dancin' around and around
With out any cares
And her very first love Was holding her close
And the soft wind was blowing her hair

It's quarter to seven that boy's at the door
Her daddy ushers him in
And when he takes off his cap they all start to cry
Cause this morning where his hair had been Softly she touches just skin

They go dancin' around and around
Without any cares
And her very first true love Is holding her close
And for a moment she isn't scared Ohhhhhh.

Just look at the two photos. Sara Beth the day she arrived -- all hunched over, looking defeated. Sara Beth today -- standing proud and tall -- looking right into the camera. It's called "hope" my friends, hope.

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Silent Montana Rescue Herd

Whenever I come into the barn -- the activity amps up a bit. My llamas get up, come to the fence, lean over, check out the commotion -- almost to welcome me to the barn. I realize that much of it is about the possibility of grain/hay being dropped into feeders. But sometimes it's just to say, "hello." You can see two of our sons in the photos with Mighty Impressive and Rocket. See how boldly the llama and alpaca are standing? They are confident.
They hum. They make those cool noises (like the velociraptors in Jurassic Park) and the gutteral noises fill the air. I LOVE those noises.
The noise is missing in the Montana Rescue herd. I invade their space to refill the water, spread more straw for warmth, or fill the hay feeders. They don't say a word. They back up when I ask them to do so -- they move when nudged; but there is no humming, no vocalization. It is silent. Look at their photos. They stand hunched over, trying not to be noticed. They huddle next to the building - for warmth and also to blend in - to be out of the way.
Does that mean they've given up? I hope not. I know I haven't given up on them.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

What goes around . . .

We've all heard it: What goes around comes around.
This is my motivation for helping the Montana Rescue llamas.
Back in 1983 -- when we got our first llama -- we were a young family with 6 kids. They were 10, 8, 7, 5, 3 and one year old. We lived on this farm, which had not yet been "beautified."
We milked goats, ate whole foods, climbed trees, played from sun-up to sundown.
Then I got sick -- was diagnosed with cancer on May 22, 1983 and was told that I had six months to live. It was sad.
The llamas left while I received treatment and I tried to survive that awful summer. I threw up just about everywhere -- from the chemo. Behind trees, out of the window of my car, you name it - I threw up there.
My beautiful, long brown hair became a memory. I threw that broken, dull, crippled hair out of the window of the car, too -- and yelled, "Birds of the air, use it well! Recycle it into nests!"
And the whole while I was being treated for cancer -- I missed the llamas. As soon as the "all clear" was sounded and I was in remission -- I told my husband, "If I get better, the only thing I want is a llama."
And, as they say, the rest is history. I now have 40 plus llamas and 50 plus alpacas.
So when the call went out for temporary havens for the Montana Rescues -- I stepped up to the plate.
The llamas helped me get better. They still do. They make me a better person. They make me get out of bed in the morning and smile at the new day -- no matter what sort of crud has occurred the day before.
They love me unconditionally. They COME when I call them from 33 acres away -- yes, the whole herd runs to the barn when they hear, "Llllaaaaaaaammas! Alpaaaaaaacas! Come on DOWN!" It's YouTube worthy.
So really, I want to thank the Montana llamas for helping me to repay a debt to other llamas.
They will go to their new homes -- but they will have left me -- and I mean ME personally, healthy and happy once again. Thank you.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Montana Large Animal Sanctuary llamas head east

Twenty-three llamas from the now closed Montana Large Animal Sanctuary will arrive here in a few days. (that's them in the trailer, ready to go)
The Sanctuary is officially closed, leaving over 1200 bison, donkeys, camels, goats and llamas with no place to go in the dead of winter.
Temperatures have been hovering in the ZERO degree range in Montana. The llamas have been without shelter, penned up in an attempt to decide who goes where -- who is too weak to travel -- and who might just lay down and die.
Southeast Llama Rescue (SELR), Northeast Llama Rescue (NELR) and Southwest Llama Rescue (SWLR) along with LANA Lifeline, have banded together to save llama lives.
On Saturday these llamas will arrive at our farm. They will be evaluated, fed, watered, and observed. In a week or so, a team from the University of IL Veterinary College will come down from Champaign to look over these llamas.
It is my understanding that most of them are females, some with crias at side. The others are likely pregnant.
Although the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries publish "rules" about being nonbreeding facilities, obviously something went awry at MLAS because nearly all of the female llamas are bred.
It is another example of how people can mess up the lives of thousands of animals.
These 23 are part of the "chosen ones" that will eventually go to new adoptive homes. They will become individual llamas once again -- not a random, faceless, nameless "herd" of llamas -- but treasured companions on life's journey.
It is my job to help them transition from the "wild" to their new homes. I am humbled to have this opportunity. I'll let you know how it goes.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Headin' home

Today was an exciting day at the farm. Three llamas that came to me for re-homing went to their forever home today. Long Tall Sally, a rescue llama from northern IL, overcame her fear of haltering and eventually hopped right into the trailer to head to MO. Platinum and Snowy left the farm as well.
And then there was Eagle Eye, purchased several days after her Oct. birth. She is a gorgeous, grey and white female llama and she will be a stunner in the show ring this year. Her mama, Dahling, went along to ease the transition.
In the photos, Dahling and Eagle Eye before they were loaded. Then there's Sally getting ready to load. And finally, Denise strikes a pose with her Eagle Eye -- so beautiful.